The extreme increase in the use of computers has drastically changed the lives of many people. Computers, as Sherry Turkle in "Who Am We" discussed, initially were used as simple calculators, but through the years they have come to be valued as more than simple machines (442). "The computer has gained new qualities, it is not only used as a calculator, but now it entails simulation, navigation, and interaction" (443). With the increase in computer usage, comes new software that attracts people's attention even more. Adults, adolescents and even children find themselves "losing track of time" when they sit down and play on the computer for half an hour and suddenly realize that thirty minutes has turned into a couple of hours. As changes occur in technology, we must also contemplate the effect these changes will have on individuals. We must realize that individuals are vulnerable to the virtual world and that they can get lost. "Our need for a practical philosophy of self-knowledge has never been greater as we struggle to make meaning from our lives on the screen" (456).
The computer can serve many purposes, such as an aid for research, finishing homework and even as a means for keeping in touch with loved ones, but it can also cause an individual to get lost in the "virtual world." This topic sparked my interest when aclose friend of mine began to notice changes in her boyfriend's attitude. Her problems began when her boyfriend bought a laptop computer. He had never had a computer before, so this was something new and exciting for him. Within a couple of weeks my friend began to notice changes in his attitude. Suddenly, she noticed he spent hours a day in front of a computer screen. He was fascinated by the internet and the immense amount of resources it had to offer. His free time no longer consisted of spending quality time with his friends and significant other, rather he found browsing the web more fascinating and worthwhile. My friend suddenly found herself competing against a machine for her boyfriend's attention.
My friend is not the only one who has experienced problems due to the amount of time her boyfriend spends on the computer. My cousin for example, can spend hours a day playing computer games and surfing the net. Interestingly enough, he denies spending so much time on the computer. When confronted about the actual time he does spend on the computer, he replies with a simple, "oh really, it didnt seem that long."
At what point does using the computer become unhealthy? I have to admit, in this day an age you are pretty lost without a computer. I use my computer on a daily basis for e-mail, research and even to shop online, but there is a limit. When an individual loses track of time and does nothing else but use the computer, than this can be seen as a problem. Some of the impacts computers have on people can be negative. When an individual becomes lost in the "virtual world" like my friend's boyfriend and my cousin, it can cause them to lose their identity and connection with the real world. As Sherry Turkle suggested, "individuals are vulnerable to the virtual world and we must learn to take responsibility for our actions" (456).
The internet plays an important role in todays information age and has become extremely powerful in our communications, work life and people's daily activities. Even though computers have positively contributed to our technology standards, society has to realize that computers can have a negative effect on people's identity. I will now explore the different impacts the computer and the internet have had in the lives of people and how that has affected their lives and relationships they hold with others.
According to the A Nation Online website, "How Americans are expanding their use of the Internet," in the last few years, it has been noted that Americans' use of the Internet has grown substantially. "The rate of growth of Internet use in the United States is currently two million new Internet users per month" (A Nation Online). What I found extremely interesting is the fact that more than half of the nation is now online. "In September 2001, 143 million Americans, about fifty-four percent of the population, were using the Internet." With these statistics in mind, it is clear that the United States has become a nation online.
According to an ABCNEWS.com study, found in the Virtual Addiction and the Center for Internet Studies website, nearly six percent of the 17,251 persons surveyed meet the criteria for compulsive Internet use and over thirty percent report using the internet to escape from negative feelings. With the increase in computer usage, many individuals are finding out that they are becoming more dependent on the computer. Individuals begin to find "virtual life" more interesting than what is going on in their real lives. They begin to neglect their personal responsibilities and their loved ones for time on the computer. I decided to search the web for sites on computer addiction. I used some of the major search engines like yahoo.com and googles.com. When my search results appeared online, I found many of the sites dealing with computer dependency to be humor sites that joke about this serious problem. Finally, I came across the Computer Addiction Services' website.
According to the Computer Addiction Services' site, Dr. Maressa Orzack, a licensed clinical psychologist has treated many cases of computer addiction and believes that the problem is just starting. "Society is becoming more and more computer dependent not only for information, but for fun and entertainment."
In the article "Computer Addiction is Coming On-Line," Dr. Orzack gives a list of the signs and symptoms that can diagnose an unhealthy dependency on the computer:
Computers can drastically change the lives of many individuals as seen from the list above. Computer dependency can affect an individual's life in more ways than one. After reading this article, I was pretty shocked to realize the immense amount of influence the computer has on an individual. I was not aware of the drastic changes that could occur in a person's life because of the dependency on the computer and the Internet. I thought about my friend's boyfriend and my own cousin and realized that they suffered from some of the symptoms that Dr. Orzack listed for computer addiction.
I decided to explore the web in search of "why" people depended on the computer so much for entertainment and games. What is so fascinating and entertaining about sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time? I decided to enter a couple of chat rooms and examine the type of conversations that were taking place. I went to America Online's, "People Connection" and observed the array of chat rooms an individual could enter. I decided to look under the category of "friends" and was surprised by the variety of rooms offered. There were rooms titled "lonely," "bored," and "beach party" to name a few. I decided to go in some of the rooms and probe the conversations that were going on.
In one of the rooms titled "twenties 1" many of the individuals were talking about their children. The participants were asking each other how many children they had and how old they were. One woman was commenting about the fact that she had just gotten home from work and had signed on to the computer. As I was taking note of the conversations going on in the room, I realized that the majority of their children were toddlers ranging from a couple of months old to three years old. What was so amazing was the fact that it was only six o'clock in the afternoon. Shouldn't these parents be spending quality time with their children, instead of talking to a bunch of strangers? In other rooms, many of the participants said they were "bored" and wanted to chat with someone.
I decided to enter another chat room, this time I entered the "bored room." The room was pretty full with twenty-three participants, many of whom were not saying much. I decided to ask the individuals in the room a question, "how much time do you guys spend on the computer a day?" it took a while for someone to respond, but after a couple of minutes someone responded. "I spend about 3-4 hours a day on the internet." My first thought was "wow, how do you manage to find the opportunity to spend so much time on the internet?" We continued to talk through the Instant Messenger service America Online has to offer. I found out that this individual, who we will call George for confidentiality purposes, is twenty-three years old and resides on the east coast.
He attends school part-time and the majority of the time he uses the computer in the evenings, when he gets home from school. George mentioned more than once that he uses the computer for entertainment and as a device to meet people. He said that many times he loses track of time and spends hours in chat rooms talking to different people. When that gets boring, he proceeds to play solitaire or other games that are available to him online until it is time to go to bed, which is usually around two in the morning. This has become his routine for a couple of years now. George said he began to use the computer a lot when he moved to a new city and used it to keep in touch with his family and friends. The fact that he did not know anyone at work and school, prompted him to spend all of his free time on the computer. Without realizing it, I think George's fear of adapting to a new environment has made him lose sense of reality and has forced him to live a "virtual life."
Computer and Internet dependency can cause an individual to lose his/her identity and sever familial ties and relationships with loved ones. According to Dr. Orzack's website on computer addiction, she believes that "one of the most effective methods to deal with these types of problems is Cognitive Behavior Therapy." This therapy teaches the patient to identify the problem, to solve the problem and learn to prevent relapses (Orzack, 1999). Dr. Orzack in the article titled, "Computer Addiction is Coming On-Line," also discussed how the key to computer dependency is moderation. "Like an eating disorder, you cant expect people to give it up completely" (Cromie, 4). An individual needs to limit the time spent on the computer. Internet and computer dependency receive the same treatment that gamblers, alcoholics,and individual's with eating disorders receive.
The main objective is to make the individual realize that he/she has a problem and they need to trigger the thoughts and emotions that make them feel addicted to a machine. Dr. Orzack recommends setting an alarm clock to limit yourself to the time spent on the computer. She also encourages taking on new activities, like walking, exercising or establishing new friendships that can take your mind off the computer. The treatment lasts about three months depending on the individual. Some people take up to a year attending sessions and participating in telephone check-ups. "Nobody's ever cured" says Dr. Orzack, "You just learn to deal with the problem."
Computers and the Internet have been responsible for many positive changes that have taken place within society. The increase in computer usage has made life easier for individuals in a wide range of activities that include: schools, the work place and even at home. According to A Nation Online website, "forty-five percent of the population now uses e-mail, one-third of Americans use the Internet to search for product and service information and thirty-five percent of Americans use the Internet to search for health information."
The computer, especially the internet have become extremely helpful and informative for millions of Americans. As noted in the above statistics, more individuals than ever are able to keep in touch and communicate with loved ones through e-mail, something not offered to everyone before. The internet also has immense amount of resources to offer when it comes to researching health information. A family member was recently diagnosed with cancer, and it was through the internet that I was able to gather information about the type of cancer she has and what new developments have occurred within the field. Due to the immense amount of articles and information I was able to collect, I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with my mother and family. I was able to let them know of some of the physical and emotional symptoms my aunt might experience once she began chemotherapy.
According to the findings on the PEW Internet and American life projects survey, "The longitudinal approach shows that over the course of a year, peoples use of the internet gets more serious and functional." The website also discusses the fact that as more Americans continue to use the internet for work, school and personal reasons, they seem less dazzled by the internet. Interestingly enough, the site suggests that those individuals who gain more experience on the internet are also less likely to use their time e-mailing family members on a daily basis. "The status of the internet is shifting from being the dazzling new thing to being a purposeful tool that Americans use to help them with some of life's important tasks."
It is evident that the internet and the computer have made possible things we never contemplated doing before. The internet enables individuals to perform work-related tasks such as making purchases and making financial transactions to name a few. The Advisory Committee Congressional Internet Caucus website, discussed some of the positive impacts the internet has had on individuals. For example, it elaborated on the actuality that there has been a tremendous increase in computer usage in schools. As stated in the A Nation Online website, "computers at schools substantially narrow the gap in computer usage rates for children from high and low income families." It has been proven that the use of computers in schools has improved childrens scores in different subjects.
At my current job I am able to view firsthand what a worthwhile experience using the computer can be for a child. The children I work with are children whose English is limited. The computer enforces their limited English skills and introduces them to words and concepts they did not know before. Not only does this software help them with their spelling, but it also helps them enforce their reading skills. Due to the computer usage, many of the children have drastically improved their reading and writing skills.
Technology has gone through many changes throughout these past couple of years. Suddenly, it has become very important to be computer literate and to know how to use the internet. With the rapid increase in the use of computers, new dilemmas begin to develop. Such as the time an individual spends on the computer and how that can affect an individual's life. Americans underestimate the power the computer and the internet have on people. Even though society and our use of technology is much more advanced due to the use of computers and the internet, dependency on these two things can cause an individual to lose his/her identity.
With a little over half of the American population using the internet, it is significantly important that we place close attention to the impact computers have on people's lives. Upon research, I have learned of the seriousness of computer and internet dependency and how it affects individuals on a daily basis. The computer on an intellectual basis, satisfies many needs, including inquisitiveness, the need for information and data, and serves as an effective way to keep in touch with loved ones. Yet, when individuals begin to depend on the internet as a means to gratify what otherwise might not feel fulfilling to them, then that is when the performance online might supersede ones "real life" satisfaction.
In the article, "Computer Addiction is Coming Online," it was noted that many individuals who admitted to being addicted to the computer, also had problems such as "loneliness, shyness, depression, low self-esteem, lousy marriages, incorrigible kids, and boredom." (Cromie, 3). This information correlated with some of the people, I spoke to. For example, George's feeling of insecurity and loneliness due to the fact that he was trying to adapt to a new city, pushed him to constantly use the internet for pleasure and self-assurance. The people in the chat room can also be placed in this category. Many of the conversations that I observed consisted of people discussing how they were bored. Other individuals discussed how they needed a break from their children. It seems to me that many of these individuals use the computer as a means to escape from reality.
The computer and the internet are valuable and indispensable tools for society. The impact that these tools have had on our lives is immense and to this day it continues to grow. On a scholastic basis, the amount of information and data that one can obtain through the internet is immense. On the other hand, it is also important that we, as individuals, take responsibility for our actions. It has to be understood that at some point the dependency on the computer can become unhealthy for people. The key to a healthy habit is "moderation" as Dr. Orzack noted on her website, Computer-Addiction.com. Moderating the time one spends on the computer is crucial in order keep the use of computers enjoyable and healthy. It is easy for individuals to get lost in the "virtual world" with the immense amount of resources the net has to offer, but with moderation, this does not have to occur. It is imperative for society to take precautions and look at the entire picture. Despite the fact that computers have greatly improved our lives and society we must also become aware of the negative impact it can have on individuals if not used responsibly.
Advisory Committee Congressional Internet Caucus. (2002). http://www.netcaucus.org (23 April 2002).
Cromie, William J. "Computer Addiction is Coming On-Line." (21 January 1999). The Harvard University Gazette. http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/1999/01.21/computer.html (23 April 2002).
"Getting Serious Online." The PEW Internet and American Life Project. (3 March 2002). http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=55 (23 April 2002).
Greenfield, Dr. David N. Virtual Addiction and the Center for Internet Studies. (2001). http://www.virtual-addiction.com (23 April 2002).
"How Americans are Expanding their use of the Internet." A Nation Online. (4 February 2002). http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/nationonline_020502.htm
Orzack, Dr. Maressa H. Computer Addiction Services. (1999). http://www.computeraddiction.com (23 April 2002).
Turkle, Sherry. "Who Am We." The Presence of Others. Andrea A. Lunsford & John J. Ruszkiewicz. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000, 442-456.